11 Famous Castles in Scotland

The construction of castles in Scotland began as individual noblemen became more powerful as feudal lords during the 12th century.

Medieval Nobility and Medieval Nobles

These lords initially built motte and bailey castles but over time, many of these were replaced with stone constructions.

Motte Bailey Medieval Castle

Motte and Bailey Castles

Later medieval castles were different in that they were meant to be comprehensive structures including residential structures and a space large enough for military garrisons.


Many Scottish castles were constructed as tower houses during this later period.


1. Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle is located on a small tidal island in the West Highlands of Scotland. It was constructed during the reign of Alexander II in the early part of the 13th century.


Eilean Donan Castle is a Scottish Castle which dates back to the 13th Century.

The castle was originally built as a huge curtain-wall castle, expanding over most of the island.  The castle was seen as a part of Scottish fortifications against possible Norse invasions.


The castle was frequently attacked and restored throughout the medieval ages.  It suffered extensive damage during the Jacobite uprising in the 18th century.

The final restoration took place in the early 20th century. Today it remains a popular tourist attraction.


2. Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle was one of the most important Scottish castles throughout the middle ages.  It was constructed at Edinburgh by King David I during the 12th century.


The castle was used as the royal residence until the 17th century and was considered a symbol of royal authority. It was for this reason that during many conflicts during the middle ages, the castle was directly involved.


It is today one of the most iconic heritage sites of Scotland and is considered a very popular tourist attraction.

The Edinburgh Castle - Probably the best Castle in Scotland

The Edinburgh Castle has remained one of the most recognised symbols of Scottish royal authority during the medieval period

3. Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle was constructed on a huge piece of rock in the 13th century. It was originally built as the stronghold of MacDougall Clan.

The castle has a huge curtain wall and is a very well-fortified structure.


However, soon after its construction, it was captured by the followers of the crown in early 14th century but soon reverted to its builders. The castle remained occupied until at least 18th century when Flora MacDonald was held captive in it.

Today, the castle is a popular tourist attraction.

4. Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace was an English fort in Linlithgow, West Lothian during the 14th century. It was a strategic fortification built by the English as an apt stop between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.

The Palace was rebuilt in the 15th century and then again in the 17th century.


It remained the residences of notable monarchs, including James III, James IV and James V. In the 16th century, King James V had the four European chivalry orders engraved on one of the arches of the Palace.

Today, the Linlithgow Palace is well preserved and is open to tourists throughout most of the year.


5. Claypotts Castle

Claypotts Castle was built in the late 16th century at Dundee, Scotland. This castle, although small, is remarkable for its unique architecture.

It has two towers and a rectangular block between them. The castle briefly came into royal possession during the 17th century but remained in the hands of different families during later times.


The castle came into the possession of the state in 1926 and is today a popular tourist attraction.

6. Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle was built along the southern coast of Scotland in the 13th century. Maxwell family commissioned its construction and owned it until the 17th century.


The original purpose of the castle was to control the trade route along the coast.

A remarkable feature of the Caerlaverock Castle is that it is a moated triangular castle which makes its architecture very well fortified from any external attacks. Although reconstructed and rebuilt many times since its construction, the castle retains its original outlook.

It was finally abandoned in the 17th century and remained a well-preserved and popular tourist attraction.


Caerlaverock Castle was built by the Maxwell family in southern Scotland

7. Blair Castle

The construction of the Blair castle took place in many phases and under different owners.  It is located in Perthshire and the earliest period of its construction began in 1269.

Although the basic structure was completed in the 13th century, most of the modern-day structure was built much later in the 15th century.


The castle remained a very important fortification and a point of contention throughout the middle ages. It was besieged during Oliver Cromwell’s reign whose army took its control from the royalist faction.

The castle remains under a charitable trust today and is open to tourists.

8. Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle is located in Aberdeenshire and was originally constructed by the Gordons as a tower house in the 15th century. It passed through the hands of several owners.


During the 19th century, it was acquired by the English crown and many new additions were made to the original structure.

The palace is currently privately owned, although its grounds are open to the public for most of the year. A lodge located near the castle was frequently the resting place of Charles and Diana.


9. Blackness Castle

The Blackness Castle is located near the village of Blackness in southern Scotland. It was constructed during the 15th century. It served as the residence of the Crichtons as well as a prison.


Soon after its construction, it passed on to King James II of Scotland.

The castle was constructed with a fairly complex entrance, surrounded by a rocky ditch and an exceptionally thick curtain wall. The castle was extensively damaged by Oliver Cromwell’s armies during the 17th century and surrendered under bombardment.

It was later abandoned and served intermittently as a prison in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today the castle is categorized as a Scottish historical monument.

10. Stirling Castle

Located in Stirlingshire, Scotland, this castle is one of the largest in the history of Scottish castles.  Because the castle was constructed in honor of the Scot hero William Wallace, it is considered one of the most important historical structures.


Not to mention it is also an impressive piece of architecture, a place often visited by knights and nobles.

The castle is known for its dark and bloody history, which is offset by the presence of elaborate gardens and luxurious interiors. To access the castle, start from either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Currently, Stirling Castle is a major tourist attraction.


Medieval festivities where children play dress up and characters hold morality places as well as family picnics have become commonplace in Stirling.


11. Rothesay Castle

The Rothesay castle is located in western Scotland and the earliest part of it was built during the 13th century. The main structure of the castle comprises of a huge curtain wall which is flanked by four huge towers.


One of the towers is popularly called the Pigeon Tower. It underwent extensive expansion in the 16th century and was fortified with a moat. Although built by the Stewarts, it later became royal property.

The castle was abandoned in the 17th century, was extensively restored during the 19th century and became the possession of the state in late 20th century.

Today it is open to visitors and is considered a historical monument.